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Public Finance: Principles, Politics & Contemporary Issues - SPY00158M

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Enrico Reuter
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Decisions that governments make about public finance - the revenue they raise and how this revenue is allocated in the form of public spending - are one of the core functions of government. An appreciation of this function is crucial for a full understanding of the role of government and the task of managing public services, and this module introduces students to this topic, including a discussion of tax avoidance and public debt as major contemporary challenges.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

Decisions about public finance - on how to raise government revenue and allocate it through public spending, and on how to use finance instruments to regulate and govern - are one of the core functions of government. A critical understanding of this function and of how public finance is embedded in political and socio-economic contexts is crucial to assess the role of the state in public policy making, to unpack the complex interconnections between public and private sector, and to analyse the key role of public finance in addressing contemporary societal challenges. This module introduces students to the core principles of public finance, and explores the political, social and economic drivers behind public finance decisions. It discusses the relevance of public finance for public services, social protection, public infrastructure, and policy responses to major collective issues such as the green transition. Applying theory to ‘real-world’ examples, the module equips students with the knowledge and skills to analyse major contemporary challenges through the lens of public finance.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • define public finance and describe the main features and principles of fiscal policy regarding revenue, expenditure and budgetary processes,

  • analyse political controversies around public finance,

  • explain market and government failure and how they relate to the interplay between public and private sector,

  • discuss current challenges in public finance such as tax avoidance and public debt,

  • assess the role of public finance in addressing contemporary societal challenges,

  • apply the theoretical and practical insights gained in this module to real-world case studies.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Report
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Report
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

Tanzi, V. (2020). Advanced Introduction to Public Finance. Edward Elgar.

Ulbrich, H. H. (2011). Public Finance in Theory and Practice. Routledge.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.